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Nora Lam (September 4, 1932 – February 2, 2004) was a Chinese Protestant Christian minister to China, and founder of Nora Lam Ministries International (NLMI). Lam was born in China and lived there until her escape to Hong Kong at age 26.
Youth and Japanese Invasion
Nora Lam was born September 4, 1932 in a missionary hospital in Beijing, China. Abandoned at birth, she was adopted six months later by Dr. and Mrs. H.T. Sung, a prominent couple in Shanghai. Her adoptive mother was a member of one of Shanghai's wealthiest families. Her adoptive father was born September 11, 1900 and was educated in France, where he received some Catholic instruction. He, however, was not religious. Lam was given the name Neng Yee Sung, and she described her childhood as being spoiled and pampered.
In 1937, the conflict on the Marco Polo Bridge in Beijing led to the start of war with Japan. When Japanese forces reached Shanghai in 1939, Sung, then age 7, and her family fled their home to go live at her step-grandmother's home in Shanghai's French Concession. In 1941, she attended the McTyeire Home and School for Girls, where she first heard of Christianity. During her time there, Sung had a vision of a guardian angel, appearing in the form of an old man. She felt this guardian angel advised her throughout her life.
In 1942, at age ten, her family fled the Japanese again, this time to her grandfather's home in Chongqing, Zhang Jieshi's war time capital in southwest China. The family traveled most of the 1500 miles on foot.
Return to Shanghai
After the war ended in 1945, the Sung Family returned to Shanghai. Her father began practicing medicine again at the Huantou Textile Hospital, and Sung was enrolled in the academically prestigious Mary Farnham School, a boarding school for girls run by Presbyterian missionaries. Influenced by many of her classmates, Sung professed to be a Christian on the eve of her middle school entrance exam. By age 16, however, she had stopped professing to be a Christian.
Following the end of the Chinese Civil War in 1949, she enrolled at Huatung Political Science & Law College in Suzhou with aspirations of becoming a lawyer. She graduated third in her class in 1953 and became an assistant professor teaching law and history. She met and fell in love with Cheng Shen Lam, another law student at the university. In 1955, realizing that she was pregnant, She and Lam were married. Their son was born later that year.
Interrogation, firing squad and escape
Due to her parents wealth and western training and to her own experiences with foreign missionaries, Neng Yee was interrogated by Communist party officials, who wanted to break her of any bourgeois tendencies. As she was questioned, she began to question herself, realizing that she still believed in Christianity. In her autobiography, China Cry, Neng Yee claimed she was sentenced to death by firing squad but miraculously survived.
In 1957, her husband, whose parents lived in Hong Kong, was also interrogated by officials as part of the first Anti-Rightist Movement. During this time, Neng Yee gave birth to her second child, Ruth Lam Kendrick. One month later, Neng Yee's father, who had previously lost his job and had been forced into reeducation through labor, died from experimental drugs officials tested on him.
In 1958, just as Mao Zedong's Great Leap Forward was beginning, Cheng Shen was able to obtain an exit visa to Hong Kong to visit his ailing father. He took daughter Ruth with him. Neng Yee, acting as a guarantor for his return, was forced to undergo hard labor despite being pregnant with their third child. After petitioning Beijing, she was granted an exit visa to visit Hong Kong during her maternity leave. Her mother's escape to Hong Kong followed two years later.
Life in Hong Kong
After reaching Hong Kong in 1958, the couple's third child was born. The Rev. Paul Kauffman served as their pastor in Hong Kong, but the couple soon had marital difficulties. Neng Yee, now known as Nora Lam, claimed spousal abuse, divorced her husband, and was remarried to S. K. Sung, an elder at the church. Nora's mother escaped to Hong Kong two years after she did.
Life in the United States
The US Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 significantly reduced immigration quotas and gave Nora the chance to immigrate to the United States. With a sponsorship from Kathryn Kuhlman, Nora was able to immigrate to the US with her children, mother, and first husband Cheng Shen, in 1966. She became a naturalized US citizen.
In 1974, she founded Nora Lam Ministries International in San Jose, California and began making annual missionary crusades to Asia. Crowds as large as 100,000 were in attendance at her evening crusades in Taiwan. She also had a daily radio program broadcast in Taiwan and accessible in Mainland China. Other ministries include orphanages and Chinese language Bible distribution.
Lam received the Korean Association of Social Work Award, a medal from the Pacific Cultural Foundation, an award from the Overseas Chinese Affairs Commission, and a special award from Sung Ro Won Children's Home in Korea, along with the respect of national leaders.
Lam and her second husband adopted two children from Taiwan.
She died in California on February 2, 2004. She was survived by two sons, three daughters and seven grandchildren. Her oldest daughter Ruth Lam Kendrick is president of Nora Lam Ministries International, now renamed World Children's Fund, which continues to support Chinese house churches, Christian orphanages and children's programs around the world.
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- China Cry: The True Story of Nora Lam (1990)
- For Those Tears (1972)